TITLE: Warcross (Warcross #1)
AUTHOR: Marie Lu
GENRE: YA, Science Fiction
PUBLISHED: 12 September 2017
RATING: ★ ★
PURCHASE LINKS: Amazon
MOBILISM LINK: Mobilism
Review : If I had to sum up my thoughts about Warcross in one word, that word would be disappointing.
I didn't expect an author of Marie Lu's caliber, who has produced fantastic debuts like Legend, and written dark and gritty fantasy series like Young Elites, to write such a sloppy novel as Warcross. Especially since Lu is already familiar with the young adult genre, and established her style, I can't fathom why she figured she could get away with such a poorly researched novel. Sorry peeps, I'm not being harsh, just honest. If I was going to write a hostile review, I would have gone with, YA = Insta love + superficial world building with no background + no character building except for the protagonist, and that through forced plot devices + predictable climax that even an amateur can spot halfway through, and to be so blase, the ending reeks of a love triangle with also the OTP already decided. Yeah, I'm way too addicted with YA and its tropes and cliches, but to put them so blatantly in a book just because of the target audience and commercial aspect, insulting personally.
The premise of Warcross is set in the future, with significant technological advancements. The exact year is not given, and Hideo Tanaka, a child prodigy has been given the sole credit of revolutionizing virtual reality. Although I don't know if VR is the right term, as Lu has thrown in augmented reality and alternative reality as synonyms where in reality those are 3 very different things. So what did Hideo invent?
For a long time, in order to create a realistic virtual reality environment, you had to render as detailed a world as possible. This required a lot of money and effort. But no matter how good the effects became, you could still tell, if you looked hard enough, that it wasn't real. There are a thousand little movements on a human face every second, a thousand quivers of a leaf on a tree, a million tiny things the real world has that the virtual world doesn't. Your mind knows this unconsciously, so something will look off, even if you can’t quite put your finger on it.
So Hideo Tanaka thought of an easier solution. In order to create a flawlessly real world, you don’t need to draw the most detailed, most realistic 3-D scene ever.
You just need to fool the audience into thinking it’s real.
And guess what can do that the best? Your own brain.
When you have a dream, no matter how crazy it is, you believe it’s real. Like, full-on surround sound, high definition, 360-degree special effects. And none of it is anything you’re actually seeing. Your brain is creating an entire reality for you, without needing any piece of technology.
So Hideo created the best brain–computer interface ever built. A pair of sleek glasses. The NeuroLink.
When you wore it, it helped your brain render virtual worlds that looked and sounded indistinguishable from reality. Imagine walking around in that world—interacting, playing, talking. Imagine wandering through the most realistic virtual Paris ever, or lounging in a full simulation of Hawaii’s beaches. Imagine flying through a fantasy world of dragons and elves. Anything.
Now, not knowing anything about that field, I can't comment on the possibility and viability of such an invention. But later on, when we see the 'advancements' in NeuroLink, I'm flabbergasted cause I know they're not possible. Sorry for not specifying, as they're minor spoilers. This is a sci-fi fantasy, but you can't take it into the realm of total nonsense. Warcross is a game where teams play on different virtual platforms, and its worldwide famous with almost everyone using it in some form or the other. Not going to lie, I was pretty tempted to try it too, it sounded really awesome
The transition in scenes between virtual reality and reality was not smooth though. Also I could not understand properly how the equipment worked, the worldbuilding was vague, reflecting the author's partial understanding of the concepts and theories that she's utilizing. Strike one
This is my personal opinion, many others have loved this book, and I strongly suggest you go and read those reviews. Maybe my skepticism blinded me to the plus points.
Now the beginning was good, I was hooked by the conflict. Emika Chen, our protagonist is a bounty hunter, chasing a criminal to earn money so that she is not evicted from her apartment. Father's dead, and mother left them. Foster care and rough childhood, good background but all of these point towards a sensibility that Emika does not have. She is not street smart and acts like an idiot. Who hacks into the national championship game of Warcross? Yes, she lost her bounty due to police politics, and she's in dire need of money but who does such a monumentally stupid act and expects to get away with it ? Teenagers in YA, in fact, they're rewarded for it. Hideo Tanaka personally calls Emi, pays her bills for the year, flies her to Tokyo because he was so impressed that she wanted to offer her a job. This millionaire, sorry billionaire who can get the best engineers in the world, but apparently formal education is lacking in the future as Emi proves to be more efficient than Hideo's entire team in observing the flaw in the coding in Warcross. Seriously, if the author could not be any more obvious in this rags to riches story, with special snowflake tattooed all over her.
My eyes wander from them to the last person in the room.
He’s sitting on a sleek gray couch right next to the meeting table, his elbows perched on his knees. The other three people are unconsciously turned in his direction, clearly waiting for him to give the final say. He’s dressed in a perfectly tailored white collar shirt rolled up to his elbows and with two of the top buttons casually undone, a pair of lean, dark trousers, and deep scarlet oxford shoes. The only game-related item he’s wearing is a pair of simple, silver cuff links glinting in the sunlight, both cut in the shape of the Warcross logo. His eyes are very dark and framed by long lashes. His hair is thick and midnight black, except for a curious, thin silver streak on one side.
Hideo Tanaka, in the flesh.
After years of admiring him from afar, I’m not sure what I expected. It somehow startles me to see him without a monitor or a magazine cover obstructing the view, like he’s in focus for the first time.
He looks up at me.
“Miss Chen,” he says, pushing himself off the couch in one graceful move. Then he approaches me, bows his head once, and stretches out a hand. He’s tall, his gestures easy and effortless, his expression serious. The only imperfection on him is his knuckles—they’re bruised, newly scarred, and surprising on his otherwise elegant hands, as if he had been in a fight. I catch myself gaping curiously and manage to stop just in time to extend my hand, too. My movements feel like those of a lumbering ox. Even though my clothes aren’t that different from everyone else’s, I feel dirty and underdressed compared to his flawless style.
Hi, Mr. Tanaka,” I reply, unsure of what else to say.
“Hideo, please.” There’s that smooth, subtle British accent of his. He encloses his hand around mine and shakes it once, then looks at the others.
The insta love was also obvious, Emi was obsessed with Hideo from the start. May I point out what a stupid name that is. He has Japanese origins, and I've heard far better Japanese names. Of all the ones, Lu chose the name that is similar to hideous. in retrospect, its actually ironical. Oh and the ease at which Emi caught his attention, how fast he got attracted to her, how quickly their relationship evolved. Hideo's best friend asks Emi, who has known him for less than ten 10 compared to their 10 years of friendship, to talk some sense into Hideo. Strike two
I just want to clarify that these strikes are markers where I began to lose interest, respect and desire to read the book. I tried stopping my creeping sense of apathy, when I called the ending 60% in. The sole reason I finished and may pick up the sequel is because I love Marie Lu's writing style. I don't know what happened, maybe I had a bad day while reading. But still, the synopsis, cover and hype all failed miserably for me. And what a gorgeous cover it is. Some reviewers classify such kind of books as coverporn. Its apt in this case.
Generally in YA, we have elaborate descriptions of the love interest. I was so excited when i found out that Hideo's Japanese, I love anime and Japanese culture fascinates me. But the book is so stereotypical in describing his western attire and way of talking. He studied from London so of course he has a British accent, how else could he ooze sex appeal. Lu doesn't go into depth about what truly makes the character rich, not does she show Tokyo as a unique setting. I could not have cared less if Emi in Manhattan, the perspective of Tokyo was way too glamorous. Since Emi's struggled her entire life, I understand her awe at the opulence surrounding her. But the focus could have been on many other things other than material themes. I for one, would have loved to know if Emi has any heritage other than American, since her name itself is so suggestive. But nada, maybe in the sequel. I have nothing against American images, just that YA if full of those type of characters, and Lu has spent so much time explicitly showing that she has included a huge diverse element, but she actually hasn't. Strike three
Skyscrapers that disappear into the evening clouds. Highways stacked on top of one another, drenched in the red and gold lights of cars racing by. High-speed rails running in the sky and disappearing underground. Commercials playing on screens eighty stories tall. Kaleidoscopes of color and sound, everywhere I look. I don’t know what to take in first. As we near the heart of Tokyo, the streets turn crowded, until the sea of people jamming the sidewalks makes Times Square look empty by comparison. I don’t realize my mouth is hanging open until Jiro looks back at me and chuckles
Three strikes and book is out, right ? But I would love to also point out all the factors I liked. The negatives trump them but still I want to be fair, since I still love Lu. The pace of the book was good, I wasn't bored a lot if I didn't compare it with anything and just went with the flow. The tone is decent, and Emika's POV didn't make my teeth grind, just made my eye's roll many times. Teenagers, hard to believe I was one, and still revert back sometimes. The supporting characters aside from Hideo have interesting back stories, they just weren't fleshed out enough. Hopefully, Lu makes full use of them in the sequel, great potential for the conflict too. All in all, I don't recommend it, though it depends on you. It sounds fantastic, and sequels are always a risk, they turn out better or worse, depending on individuals. And no matter what she's writing, Lu's style always pulls it off.